ADJUDICATION OFFICER DECISION
An Engineering Company
Complaint/Dispute Reference No.
Date of Receipt
Date of Adjudication Hearing:
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer:
In accordance with Section 41 of the Workplace Relations Act, 2015 and Section 8 of the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 - 2015, following the referral of the complaints to me by the Director General, I inquired into the complaints and gave the parties an opportunity to be heard by me and to present to me any evidence relevant to the complaints.
The complainant was employed by the respondent as a fitter/general operative since 2nd October 2006. On 19th April 2019, he was asked by one of the company’s directors to clean his personal car. The complainant states that he was dismissed as a result of his refusal to do this while the respondent claimed that he resigned.
Summary of Complainant’s Case:
It is the complainant’s case that he refused to clean the director’s car on Friday 19th April 2019 and was told that he was instructed not to come to work until such time as he was willing to do so. The complainant added that he informed the respondent that if he wasn’t happy with the work he did, then he should be given a redundancy payment as well as his P45. He also stated that he informed the other director that his father had just left him go and claimed that he then left the respondent’s premises.
Having returned home, he immediately telephoned his union, who advised him to return to work the following Tuesday 23rd April. He stated that he did so and on arrival at the workplace, he was asked once again if he would clean the director’s car. He claimed that he said no and was then told that he was free to go. He understood from this that he was dismissed.
The complainant also alleged that the respondent did not have a grievance procedure and stated that a disciplinary process should have been invoked prior to his instant dismissal.
Summary of Respondent’s Case:
It is the respondent’s case that the complainant refused to clean the car on Friday 19th April and stated that he terminated his own employment. It was claimed that there was no opportunity to sanction the complainant because, having refused to service and clean the car, he immediately said that he was leaving and asked for his P45. It was emphasised that there was no threat made to the complainant that his employment would be terminated.
The respondent stated that the complainant had previously cleaned the directors’ cars and that there had never been an issue in the past. It was also alleged that he did non-core duties, such as painting and cleaning, during quiet periods. It was highlighted that all of the respondent’s other operatives had completed a welding training course, which had been offered to the complainant but was refused, and that it was therefore easier to find alternative work for them.
The respondent’s witness stated that, on Tuesday 23rd April, he asked the complainant what would happen if he asked him to clean the car again, when he firstly met him at the company’s premises. He stated that the complainant replied that his answer would be the same and that he wouldn’t do it. The respondent therefore informed him that the P45, which he had requested the previous Friday, was ready and that he could pick it from the office. He stated that the claimant then informed him that he would see him in court.
Findings and Conclusions:
While it is not disputed that the complainant was informed by the respondent on Tuesday 23rd April that he was free to leave his employment having once again refused to clean the car, I am satisfied that the employment effectively ended on Friday 19th April, despite both parties differing accounts of what happened on the day. On the one hand, the complainant alleged that he was of the understanding that he was dismissed from his employment on that day because of his refusal to clean the director’s car while on the other hand, the respondent alleged that the complainant resigned from his employment, when he was told that he had to clean the director’s car.
Prior to making a decision on the matter, I must therefore decide which party’s evidence I prefer, in relation to what happened on 19th April.
While it was acknowledged that there was no formal grievance procedure in the company, the respondent stated that all matters were dealt with informally without the need for a formal procedure. If this was the case, and there was nothing to suggest otherwise, it is difficult to understand why the complainant failed to explain the reasons behind his unwillingness to clean the car given that he had carried out the task on numerous occasions in the past, if indeed he was genuinely aggrieved at having been asked to do so and was not simply using it as an excuse to justify his resignation. Moreover, even if he was reluctant for whatever reason to address it directly himself, he could have contacted his trade union, who would have been able to raise the matter on his behalf. More significantly however, it is difficult to comprehend why, if he believed that he was dismissed for having refused to clean the car on Friday 19th April, he returned to work four days later, on Tuesday 23rd and expected to be retained in the respondent’s employment, without agreeing to clean the car.
In terms of the respondent’s position, it is not easy to understand why the complainant, who had over twelve years’ service and was acknowledged to be an excellent employee, was allowed to terminate his employment, without the respondent making some attempt to ascertain why he was unwilling to clean the car, despite having done so on numerous occasions in the past.
Having reflected at some length on the matter, and taken everything I heard into account, I prefer the evidence of the respondent on the basis that, as disappointing as it was, it is more likely that the complainant was allowed to leave his employment without inquiries having been made as to why he refused to clean the car than it would have been for the complainant both to not explain why he wouldn’t clean it and also return to work on Tuesday 23rd April, expecting to resume his duties, despite claiming to have been dismissed four days earlier.
In light of the above, I therefore consider that the complaint is not well founded.
Section 41 of the Workplace Relations Act 2015 requires that I make a decision in relation to the complaint(s)/dispute(s) in accordance with the relevant redress provisions under Schedule 6 of that Act.
Section 8 of the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 – 2015 requires that I make a decision in relation to the unfair dismissal claim consisting of a grant of redress in accordance with section 7 of the 1977 Act.
Dated: 17th December 2019
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: